How to Avoid Pitfalls That Will Hurt Your Writing Career
Remote workers are taking over corporate America — and beyond — with freelance writers being one of the top professions for those choosing to step outside the stereotypical 9-5. In the next ten years, statisticians believe that more than 50% of the total U.S. workforce will be freelance. This staggering stat might not surprise you if you’re reading this blog, but the freelance movement is still largely underground for individuals over age 35.
The sad reality is that while you may feel that your writing is top-notch and unique, there are over ten thousand active writers on WriterAccess.com alone. What does this mean for the writer who needs to make a living? It means you darn well better surprise and delight your clients with over-the-top customer service and superior writing ability. The competition for new projects is intense, so when you are fortunate enough to land a killer prospect you need to avoid pitfalls at all costs:
Forget the “Perfect” Freelance Writer
Let’s face reality: no one is truly perfect. However, you can take steps to make your brand as attractive as possible to your prospects and customers. The ideal freelance writer will:
- Always do their research
- Put themselves in the mindset of their client before writing each project
- Read all the instructions at least twice
- Never get sick or have a life (Gotcha!)
- Keep detailed notes on each client and their preferences
- Understand the difference between Wikipedia and a REAL reference website
- Never be late, ask irrelevant questions or otherwise annoy the client
- Never makes a grammatical mistake (Sign up for Grammarly.com now)
I’m from the south, so all I can say for this person is “Bless their heart!” — because this human truly doesn’t exist. We can all try to do these things and even succeed most of the time. Unfortunately, life gets in the way, clients are easily confused and sometimes you’re just not feeling it. Now that we know what the “perfect” freelance writer would do, let’s break down how normal humans can keep their freelance career on track.
Always Be Humble and Kind
There is a fine-line balancing act that you must perform on each project. Keep in mind that the person on the other end of the computer could have written the copy that you are about to bulldoze through as you make improvements. Always be gracious, and avoid trashing content that you are asked to rewrite even if it is truly atrocious. Look for ways to keep it positive as you are working through the engagement with your client. At the end of the day, the client is always right (even when they really, really aren’t).
Remember, You’re the Expert!
Yup, I said it again — you’re the expert! With an exclamation mark! You have to own the fact that you know more than the client when it comes to writing. Be clear and concise and provide tips that the client can use in the future. Do not be shy about sharing constructive feedback or taking charge of the project. Your client will often look to you to seize the basic details they have provided and run with it. Always look for ways you can add value to your clients, even beyond the specific job for which they are paying you. When your client sees that you are invested in their business, they will begin to view you as an extension of their team. This often translates into ongoing work or great recommendations.
Know Thy Audience
A cardinal sin of writing is a lack of understanding of your audience. Read through your client’s website, even if it takes you a few extra minutes. Understand their core value proposition and what they offer to their customers. A great example is one of my favorite clients, for whom I often write content for an alcohol and drug rehabilitation clinic. It is incredibly important to keep the voice uplifting and positive and completely non-judgmental because the audience is often having a rough time and looking for inspiration. Finding ways to incorporate a meaningful message when selling products tugs on the emotions of the reader and compels them to engage more deeply with the brand. When you fail to find this connection, you are doing your clients (and your writing) a disservice.
Listen: the Clock is Always Ticking
This is one that is a constant struggle for me personally. With a full-time job, a husband, two children and a healthy side career in freelance writing, time is not my friend. My clients are generally very gracious when I have to ask for extensions, but it is important to always keep in mind that your clients have deadlines, too. In a perfect world, you would turn content around to your clients as quickly as possible and never leave things to the last minute and require an extension. Too many extension requests can convince your clients that you do not have time for them and makes you look unprofessional, too.
There are nearly 4 million Americans who are working from home on a weekly basis. According to the Department of Labor Statistics, more than 131,000 claimed to be writers or authors. With more than 10,000 people joining that job category annually, the competition for lucrative clients is fierce. You will need your A-game to stay in the fray. Ongoing education is a beautiful thing, so go grab the new WriterAccess.com book The Content Strategy Master Class for free!
Myca A brings 12 years of director-level marketing, sales and communications experience. She has worked with all sizes and types of organizations from GE Capital Corporation and a $100MM non-profit down to a small local promotional products manufacturer. Her experience in publishing, process improvement, change management, leadership, finance, communications and marketing give her a broad background to draw upon when crafting compelling content.